Pierre Gasly admitted he was not satisfied with the performance of his AT01 during Friday’s free practice sessions at Spa-Francorchamps, even though the Frenchman placed inside the top ten in the afternoon.
The Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda driver, running this weekend with a different helmet design paying respects to his friend Anthoine Hubert who was tragically killed at this venue in a FIA Formula 2 race twelve months ago, ended twelfth in the morning session and tenth in the afternoon, his best time 0.856 seconds off the pace of Max Verstappen.
Gasly says there is work to do overnight to prepare for Saturday’s running and he hopes he can break into the top ten again in both Saturday’s Qualifying session and Sunday’s race.
“Another Friday finished and it was good to end the day in the top ten,” said Gasly. “However, at the moment I’m still not fully satisfied with the car balance and I have the feeling we haven’t found the sweet spot yet.
“I think we have a bit of work to do tonight to find more performance because I’m sure we can do even better. We’ll analyse everything and try to make the right changes to take the fight for the top ten this weekend.”
Team-mate Daniil Kvyat was eleventh in the morning and twelfth in the afternoon, with the Russian also hopeful of advancing into the top ten when it matters on Saturday.
“I think it was an OK Friday, we ran the usual procedures and did as many laps as possible today,” said Kvyat. “We were able to get the car in a decent place straight away, so we will put in some good work overnight to make the balance better for tomorrow.
“Hopefully, it will put us in a good position to fight for Q3 in Qualifying.”
“We didn’t quite show the competitiveness in FP2 that we hoped to” – Jonathan Eddolls
Jonathan Eddolls, the Chief Race Engineer at AlphaTauri, says the uncertainty over the weather conditions this weekend made for a difficult decision about the downforce levels needed, although he was pleased overall with the pace of the AT01 on Friday.
Eddolls says Spa-Francorchamps in the dry requires a much different set-up than if it was wet, but two dry sessions on Friday gave the team a lot of data, even though some time was lost when Gasly ran over a kerb and damaged the floor of his car.
Despite finishing in or around the top ten, Eddolls says there is still pace to be unlocked with the AT01 and he hopes this pace can be found when it matters in Saturday afternoon’s Qualifying session.
“Coming to Spa, we faced the usual uncertainties around the weather as the forecast was changing daily with a mix of rain, overcast and sunshine,” said Eddolls. “This made planning for the weekend more difficult when it came to rear wing level and downforce choice because when the track’s dry, it favours one level, but when it’s wet it favours something completely different.
“We built that into our plans and the weather today has been good with no rain affecting the sessions, so we could run a completely dry programme to gather a lot of useful data. FP1 was quite a productive session, the performance was in line with expectations, particularly over the short run, and our top speed was looking competitive.
“We lost a bit of time with Pierre’s car due to some damage to his floor after having hit a kerb, which was unfortunate, so he didn’t get all of the running that we would have liked in that session. You can run a car quite low and aggressive here, but the downside is that if you run a bit wide you can cause quite a bit of damage. While this cost him some time, we were still quite positive at the end of FP1.
“We made some changes heading into FP2, but the balance went to more understeer for us, which wasn’t ideal, and I think overall, we didn’t quite show the competitiveness in FP2 that we hoped to, so we will look to make some changes tomorrow to help with the balance.”
Eddolls said the Virtual Safety Car (VSC) and red flag interruptions during the afternoon session would have had a negative impact on the teams as it took away some valuable time to learn more about the tyres on long runs, but he was pleased with how the day unfolded overall.
“Our long runs weren’t as clean as we would have liked as there was a VSC and a red flag,” said Eddolls. “With Spa having such a long lap, it means if there’s an interruption on track, the number of laps you get on each tyre is reduced and this makes it a bit more difficult in understanding the compounds in preparation for Sunday.
“However, we have information on all three compounds now, and we’ll complete our analysis with the view of making the best choice for tyres and downforce level heading into tomorrow and the race.”